Minneapolis leaders trying new approach to help homeless encampment

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On Thursday, city and community leaders will announce a new plan to help people living in a homeless encampment near Hiawatha Avenue and Cedar Avenue. 

There are currently dozens of tents set up along the embankment not far from the Little Earth housing complex. The City of Minneapolis is now working with the American Indian community, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to address both the short and long-term needs of people at the encampment, some of whom suffer from serious illness and addiction. 

This is the latest alternative approach the city is trying to help the growing homeless population. 

Earlier this month, the Minneapolis Police Department assigned one officer to work fulltime to create alternatives to arresting and prosecuting people experiencing homeless. The officer works in partnership with other city organizations and regularly provides critical resources like food, water, clothing and storage space.     

In response to the growing encampment, the city has been coordinating with public and private partners to provide for people's immediate needs, including providing portable toilets, handwashing stations and overdose response kits. 

Mayor Jacob Frey outlined the new strategy Thursday when he met with leaders in the American Indian community.

"Tackling midterm needs like finding access to treatment for drug addiction and the appropriate social services to help stabilize lives is essential," Frey said. "1044 and Third, and this should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway. long term, we must address our affordable crisis and help secure stable housing for those who presently don't have it." 

James Cross, from Natives Against Heroin, said the camp is full, creating a public health issue.

Robert Lilligren, of the Metropolitan State Urban Indian Directive, said that in September his group plans "to bring all available resources together to provide pathways to more permanent and stable house for the residents of the camp." 

Most of the residents of the camp are Native Americans. At today's count, there are members of 17 tribes in about 71 tents.